This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
I’m going to speak to you tonight and tomorrow night, God helping me, about a spiritual law. All of us here, I’m sure are familiar with what are called Natural laws or physical laws or scientific laws. To take a very simple and obvious example, we’re familiar with the law of gravity. And none of us expects to operate in a way that is contrary to the law of gravity. No one here, I think, this evening would step out of a fourth floor window and expect to do anything but fall downwards. And there are, of course, other physical laws that we’re familiar with; the laws that govern crops and harvests and the fruit that’s gathered from the earth. And there’s a science called agriculture which studies those laws in detail.
But many people who are familiar with natural law have no vision or concept of spiritual law. But I believe that there are spiritual laws which are every bit as definite, as precise, as certain and as impossible to break as natural laws. People talk about breaking God’s law but that’s really a mistake. You don’t break the law of gravity, the law of gravity breaks you. And I believe the same is true of spiritual laws. People talk about breaking God’s laws but that’s not the way it really is. And so I’m going to be unfolding to you tonight a spiritual law which I believe operates throughout the entire universe. I believe it operated before the universe was created and I believe it will go on operating after time is no more. I believe it’s a law that affects every one of us here tonight, it has a definite bearing on the course of our lives. In fact, to a large extent it will determine whether we’re successful or whether we fail.
The spiritual law that I’m going to speak about is stated three times in the New Testament, each time it comes from the lips of Jesus himself. The first time and the only time we’ll actually look at is in Matthew 23:12:
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (NIV)
You’ll see that that is an entirely universal law. Anybody anywhere at anytime who exalts himself will be humbled. And equally universal, anyone who humbles himself will be exalted. As I said, there are two other passages in the New Testament where that law is stated but we don’t need to turn to them tonight.
There are a number of other passages in scripture which say the same thing with different words. Just look for a moment at two passages in Proverbs. Proverbs 16:18 which says, and this is probably one of the most familiar verses in scripture. A lot of people who don’t know any other verses of scripture know this:
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
As a matter of fact, most people say that pride goes before a fall. Well that’s true in principle but it’s not exactly what the scripture says. In fact, it says something much worse. It says pride goes before destruction.
And then in the 18th chapter, the 12th verse:
“Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud. But humility comes before honor.”
So before a downfall there is pride, and before honor there is humility. I believe that is universal. I don’t believe there ever was a downfall in the experience of a living creature that was not caused by pride, ultimately.
Now I’m going to take the first and probably the greatest example of this principle which is found in a created being, but not a human being. And I’m going to look with you tonight at a picture of what happened to this created being. Let me just make a few statements which are perhaps surprising to some of you. First of all, the first sin in the universe was what? Pride, that’s right. It wasn’t drunkenness, it wasn’t immorality, it wasn’t murder. It was pride. And yet, many people who would be horrified by something like drunkenness or murder or immorality tolerate pride and scarcely see it as a sin. This sin of pride led to rebellion and here we have a principle that the inner always precedes and produces the outer. So the inner condition was pride which was expressed in the outer action of rebellion. This sin took place not on earth but in heaven. It was committed not by a human being but by an angel. And the cause of the pride was beauty and wisdom that had been imparted by the Creator. And yet, these things given by the Creator produced ultimately rebellion against the very Creator who produced them.
Now many of you, I’m sure, are aware that I have in mind primarily a passage in Ezekiel 28. This is one of those Old Testament prophetic scriptures that reveal not merely the future but also the past. Sometimes I think we forget that prophetic insight and ministry not merely is related to the future, things we cannot know because they have not yet happened, but it also reveals the past, things we did not know because we were not there and we have no means of knowing except by prophetic revelation. In Ezekiel 28:1–19, the prophet speaks of two different persons, each is related to the city of Tyre. But the first person is called in the version I’m using, the New International Version, the ruler of Tyre. In the King James Version it says the prince of Tyre. The second person is called the king of Tyre. The first person was a human being, the second person very definitely was not a human being. Just to see the identity of the first person, we’ll look at Ezekiel 28:2 and following:
“Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. [And verse 9:] Will you then say, “I am a god,” in the presence of those who kill you? You will be but a man, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you.” (NIV)
So here is a person who is a man but lays claim to being god. That’s the ruler or the prince of Tyre. Now we’ll look at the king of Tyre. The king of Tyre is not a human being. We’ll read from verse 11, about five or six verses.
“The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold: on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.” (NIV)
That’s really a very clear and vivid description and I’m sure that it became clear to you that it’s no human being that’s referred to there. Let me just point out certain features. In verse 12 it says that this creature excelled in wisdom and in beauty. In verse 13 we’re told that this creature had been in Eden, the garden of God. That takes us right back to Genesis. Verse 14, we’re told that this creature was anointed as a guardian cherub. The King James Version says a covering cherub. And that takes our minds to the picture of the ark in the tabernacle which had a cherub at either end of the seat, its wings stretching out over the place of God’s presence. It says also you were on the holy mount of God. Verse 15, it says you were blameless in your ways from the day you were created. So it’s a created being we’re talking about, but not a man, a cherub. Then verse 16, it says through your widespread trade you were filled with violence and you sinned. I’ll go back to that word in a moment, it’s a key word. And verse 17, again, the root problem is diagnosed: your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth [and so on].
Now, that word that is translated trade in the King James is translated traffic. And it’s a Hebrew root of which the primary meaning is to go to and fro, to go backwards and forwards. Now, it’s associated with the practice of trade because a trader is someone who goes to and fro, fetching his wares, selling them, attending markets and so on. However, its initial, original meaning is not exactly confined to trade. I want to give you two other places where a word from exactly the same root is used earlier in the Bible. In Leviticus 19:16 it says:
“Do not go about spreading slander among your people.”
Notice, go about spreading slander, that’s the root concept; it’s going about. And then out of that develop the things that happen when a person goes about. One of them is trade but the one that’s referred to here which is primary is slander or carrying tales, or spreading untrue reports.
And then to take one other example, and there are more, in Proverbs 11:13. The version I have says:
“A gossip betrays confidence...”
But the New American Standard says “the one who goes about as a talebearer...” Now that is the real basic meaning of that word. So, we go back to Ezekiel 28:16:
“Through your widespread trades you were filled with violence [through going about as a slanderer and a talebearer spreading false reports, you promoted rebellion. [I believe that’s the correct picture. I’ll say it again. “Through going about as a slanderer, as a talebearer, spreading false reports, you promoted rebellion. And because of rebellion you were thrown out from the presence of God.”
First of all, let’s get a picture. Now I have to say this is my imagination, it’s speculation, it isn’t stated plainly in scripture. I do think there’s a great many different things that concern what I’m saying but I see a condition in heaven before sin had ever happened with myriads of glorious created angels. And one of the chief angels was the one who was known in Hebrew as ?ILot Hashaha? I wonder how many of you who have been to Israel remember a kibbutz with that name? And it’s usually translated in English for the kibbutz, the hind of the dawn. But in the Bible it’s translated the morning star. And in the King James Version it’s translated Lucifer which means the “light bringer.” And that is, of course, the morning star, the one who introduces the dawn. The Hebrew phrase means the hind or the deer that brings the dawn. It speaks of something swift and beautiful and delicate and graceful. So amongst the created angels there was this one who was what I believe we would call an archangel or a ruling angel. The Bible reveals three archangels: Gabriel, Michael and Lucifer.
It’s theory, and I want to emphasize that, but it seems to me possible that each angel was answerable to one of the persons of the Godhead: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. And that each of them commanded a third of the created angels. And if that be so, then my opinion is that Lucifer was responsible to the second person of the Godhead, the Son of God. The eternal son of God, the one who is called the Word, the one who was in the Father’s bosom, and so on. Now because of his outstanding and perhaps unique wisdom and beauty, Lucifer felt that he was worthy of a higher position. In fact, he felt that he was as good as his lord. And if it be the Son of God I think that adds a great deal of meaning to the rest of history. And so, he went about promoting rebellion and spreading slander amongst the angels. And let me say if that worked in heaven, it’s almost bound to work on earth. And let me also add he’s never changed his tactics. The person who goes about spreading false reports is probably as near to doing the will of Satan as any person on earth. And unfortunately, let’s be honest, churches are full of such people.
So, what did he say? Well, again this is speculation. But I think he said something like this: “You know, you people, I want you to understand, you angels, that lord [and he said it with rather a cynical tone of voice] doesn’t really appreciate you. I mean, you have capabilities. You’re capable of more than is being given to you. Now, if you were to follow me, I would really see that your full potential was developed.” And so on. “Why don’t we set up our own kingdom? Why should we serve this god? I believe I could make as good a god as the god we served.” And apparently, the amazing thing is, in the full light of heaven’s glory, in a perfect universe that had never been marred by sin, these tactics succeeded. It really causes me to tremble in a way because if they worked in heaven, where sin had never been heard, where God was revealed in his glory and beauty, how much better are they going to work on earth. How much better they have worked for thousands of years.
One of the things I am trying to do is reveal to you the identity of the enemy and the way he operates because he’s still operating in the same way. And so, the result was a rebellion in which one-third of the created angels turned against God following Lucifer. The figure one third is taken probably, you know, from the book of Revelation which says that the dragon swept one third of the angels out of heaven with his tail. And it’s very generally believed that that was what happened in the beginning.
Another frightening thing is the tremendous scope of authority. God committed authority to Lucifer. He gave him authority over one third of the created angels. And when Lucifer fell in rebellion, the whole of that area of God’s kingdom was swept away with him. I believe irrevocably. I don’t believe there is any way back for fallen angels. It really is a frightening thought. For those of us who are in authority in whatever small measure it may be, I think it should continually warn us that the effects of our disobedience or disloyalty can be irretrievable for those who are under us. And for those who are under authority, I think it’s a warning to examine whose authority you are following. One of the things that we have been saying is it’s very dangerous to be submitted to a man who is submitted to no one. I think it’s an almost sure road to ultimate disaster.
There’s a parallel passage which is familiar to many, I’m sure, in Isaiah 14:12–15. Here the name Lucifer is actually used. Beginning in verse 12:
“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” (NIV)
Now the marvelous thing about prophecy is it always reveals not just the outward acts but the inner motivation, the essential inner facts. And here we’re given the motivation that caused Lucifer to rebel. I have to pause and say I marvel that God knew what Lucifer was saying in his heart all the time and he let him get away with it. For who knows how long, I don’t know how time was measured. Who knows how long this process took. You may think you’re getting away with something but I want to tell you that God knows what you’re doing. And he may let you get away with it for months or years but one day you’ll discover God knew.
“You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.” (NIV)
Notice two little words that occur five times. The motivating words of all action: I will, I will, I will, I will, I will. What is the root problem of the universe? The will of the creature in opposition to the will of the creator. Notice the climax. The first I will, ascend to heaven. The second, I will raise my throne above the stars of God. The third, I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly. The fourth, I will ascend to the tops of the clouds. The fifth, and this is the climax, I will make myself like [or equal to] God himself. I like the translation here that says I will make myself equal. The King James says I will be like.
But in the Hebrew there are five main verbal forms. And one of them is something that is done repetitively or with special intention. And this is the one. It’s not I will be but I will make myself. It’s my aim, it’s my purpose, it’s my ongoing intention and endeavor to make myself equal to the Most High. The result was fall. You remember what we said. Whosoever exalts himself will be humbled. It never fails.
Now God’s response to this rebellion was something that only God would have thought of, as I see it. And I mean I’m giving you some of my insights or intuitions or opinions, whatever you want to call them. Notice the root problem was pride. And I believe God saw that once and for all this issue of pride had got to be dealt with in such a way that when it was finished, that problem would never occur again. And so God decided to make a new kind of creature: his name, Adam [or man]. And as I understand scripture, this creature was made in a way that no other creature was made. Of all the other creatures it says God spoke and it was done. With the word of his mouth and his spirit he created the heavens and their host, all that was in them. But this one was different and I’m going to read just one verse in Genesis 2:7. This is one of my favorite verses. I could preach on this for a long while but I’ll try not to.
“And the Lord God formed man...
And in Hebrew it’s a proper name, Adam. And Adam is directly related to the Hebrew word for earth which is Adama. It’s also related to the Hebrew word for red which is adonand it’s also related to the Hebrew word for blood which is ?don?. So that word immediately evokes a whole context of associations.
“And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” (NIV)
I prefer the version a living soul. So how do we picture this happening? I’ll tell you what I believe. I believe it happened the way it’s recorded. I got a letter from somebody who listens to my radio broadcast just recently and he said I thought I believed the Bible literally until I heard you teaching the Bible. Well, I don’t know about the word literally but I believe it tells it the way it is. And so I believe that the second person of the Godhead, the one in a sense who had been a focus of the rebellion, came down to earth, stooped down, took some dust, mingled it with water, formed clay and molded the greatest piece of pottery or sculpture that the universe has ever seen. A perfect body. Beautiful but lifeless. And then, this eternal being, God in person, stooped still lower down, put his divine lips against the lips of clay and breathed into that body of clay the spirit of life. And the inbreathed spirit turned that clay figure into a living, human personality.
As you probably have gathered, I am interested in the Hebrew language. I am interested in it because in many ways it contains keys to understanding scripture. There are two words there that are very interesting. The word for to breath—I won’t go into why it’s this way but it’s ?vieyepach?. And it contains a P sound and then the sound that English speaking people normally do not make, the letter ?heck? which is produced in the throat by a continuing outgoing breath. Scottish people can say it, like Loch, but the ordinary English speaking people can’t say it. Semitic languages have it and you can’t speak Semitic languages correctly until you can make that sound.
Now, for some years I taught phonetics in Africa to African students. And I taught them various different kinds of letters. And the letter P is a distinctive letter. It’s called a plosive. In other words, it has a little explosion. And I used to demonstrate this to my students. I don’t know whether I can do it here because of the fans, but by holding a piece of paper in front of my mouth and saying a word like pepper. I’ll try and do it, I’m not sure if it will work. But if it works, if there’s not too much wind around you’ll see that each time I make a P sound there’s an explosion of my breath. Pepper. Pepper. Can you see that? There’s no other letter that will do that except P.
And that inbreathed breath of Almighty God changed that clay body into a living person. And man became a living soul. Now the word for soul is ?nefesh?. And in all Hebrew words there are three consonants, ne, feand shin that word, nefesh. Now the word for spirit is ?ruach?. So spirit is a kind of ongoing, irresistible, unceasing, outgoing breath. That’s spirit. Spirit produced soul. Soul is nefesh. Soul is created, soul is dependent. Spirit is uncreated and not dependent. And so the inbreathed spirit, the ruach, produced the nefesh.
Now, if you take those three sounds and you picture a person sleeping, you get a sound like [breathing sounds]. What does that tell you? It tells you that soul is dependent. It has to breathe in before it can breathe out. Spirit is eternal, ongoing. So the outbreathed spirit produced the created, dependent soul.
Now, it’s the first time in the Bible, in this passage that the word Jehovah or Yahweh is used. All through the first chapter of Genesis the word is simply Elohim, the word for God. But Jehovah or Yahweh or whatever way we choose to pronounce the word is a personal name identifying God as a person. Likewise, Adam is a personal name, not just a general noun. So at this point in the record of creation the emphasis is on personality. A personal God created a personal man for personal fellowship between them.
Then notice some other points out of this description. God had to stoop to create man. He went down, not up. God imparted himself to man and he breathed his own spirit into that body of clay. Man combines in himself the highest and the lowest. One element is from God, the other is from the earth. That perhaps will help you understand some of the struggles you go through. There’s two elements in you. One is from above and one is from beneath. And I’m sure I’m not the only person here in whom those elements sometimes come into conflict. And one part of me wants the thing that belongs to the above and the other part of me wants the thing that comes from below. You see, one of the features of the record of creation in the Bible is it explains what we’re like, why the things happen that happen in our lives. It’s got an answer. And I don’t believe any other alternative version supplies the answers.
The other fact that I want to point out is that man relates to two worlds. Through his spirit he relates to God, through his body he relates to this one. Let me just recapitulate those features. First of all, it was a personal God who created a personal man for personal fellowship between them. Secondly, God stooped to create man. Thirdly, God imparted himself to man. Fourthly, man combines in himself both the highest and the lowest. And fifthly, through his spirit man relates to God. Through his body man relates to the world.
Concerning the relationship that was brought into being between God and man through creation I would say there are two key thoughts. The one I’ve already mentioned is fellowship. The second is implied in what I’ve said, dependence. The very word nefesh implies dependence; something that has to receive before it can give out. I believe it’s true that when a baby is born into the world, the same thing still happens. In other words, somebody has to start the breathing operating. Because, in a sense, it takes us right back to the truth of creation.
What was God’s purpose for man? It’s stated very simply in Genesis 1:26. Before the actual description of creation takes place, the purpose is given.
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them [that’s the human race, not just one man] rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the earth.”
So there are two features of man in God’s purpose. First of all he was to visibly represent God in a way that no other creature did. He was to portray the likeness of the Creator. Secondly he was to exercise God’s authority on his behalf. Authority over the whole earth.
So long as man remained dependent he ruled. That’s a paradox. Today, in most people’s thinking, the concept of ruling is being independent. But in God’s eternal provision, to rule the man had to remain dependent. The moment he ceased to be dependent he ceased to rule.
Now Satan had special enmity—and remember that his name Satan was not his original name—he was originally Lucifer, the “light bringer.” But when he transgressed he lost that identity and he became Satan. The word Satan means the adversary, the resistor, the opposer. Understand he’s the one who unfailingly opposes God’s purposes and God’s people. That’s why he’s our enemy as well.
Now he had enmity against man for two special reasons. Out of all the creatures God had created, man was number one target for his enmity for two reasons. First of all, man carried in himself the image of God. Satan couldn’t attack God but he could attack the image of God in man. I saw a very vivid thing happen many years ago, I was with a young lady who was a Christian but not perhaps as spiritual as she ought to be. And she had been engaged to a young man who jilted her. And she carried around with her a photograph of this young man. When she got the news that he had jilted her she took his photograph and tore it up. She vented her ill feeling against the man on his image. And that’s a little picture of one of the reasons why Satan hates us. Because we carry the image of God. He can’t attack God but he can take that image of God in man, defile it, stamp upon it and shake his fist at God. And when you see somebody that’s marred and deformed by the results of sin, an alcoholic or somebody that’s somehow lost his human dignity, bear in mind that’s Satan’s work. He is wreaking his enmity against God on that creature.
The second reason, I believe, for Satan’s enmity against man was that man is destined to take the place from which Satan fell. So he’s in a sense, his rival. Now, Satan, as we know, produced man’s downfall through his cunning. We’ll just look briefly at the record, I’m not going to dwell on it, in Genesis 3:1–5.
“Now the serpent [and we discover that the serpent was the embodiment of Satan] was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.”
Bear in mind the main feature of Satan’s character which is always emphasized in the Bible is his craftiness. And is primary activity is to deceive.
He said to the woman, [and notice he went to the weaker vessel and bypassed God’s chain of authority] “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’“ “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. (NIV)
We don’t need to read the rest. I want you to see three features of Satan’s approach against man, primarily against the woman, Eve. The first thing he did was to question God’s word. He said did God really say? And I believe Eve lost the battle the moment she entertained that question. And I want to warn you that his tactics have not changed. And in many, many sections of the church you will be confronted by people who say did God really say? And if you entertain that, you’re in the same dangerous position that Eve was. You cannot afford to entertain the questioning of God’s word.
Secondly, he questioned God’s goodness. He said God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you’ll be like God knowing good and evil. What’s the implication? The implication is that God is an unjust, arbitrary despot who is keeping his creatures in subjection which was lower than what they should have been. So Satan’s first aim was to discredit God’s word. His second was to discredit God’s goodness. And he is still the same.
What was his temptation? What was the bait he offered? Exactly the same motivation that caused his own fall. He said you will be like God, you will be equal with God. He had said, who knows how long or how short a while previously, I will be like the Most High. Now he says you will be like God. In other words, it’s the same motivation—and it works, a lot. So man fell through the temptation of Satan. The same deception, the same motivation that caused Satan’s downfall caused man’s downfall.
Let me point out to you seven results of Adam’s fall. I’m not going into them in any detail. First, Adam’s direct fellowship with God was broken. Secondly, Adam’s life source was cut off. He was like a battery that would never be recharged. There was a tremendous amount of divine life in him but it had to run down ultimately. Third, Adam became subject to corruption. That is, sickness, old age, wrinkles, stiff joints, a lot of other things we don’t like to think about. Fourthly, Adam became subject to Satanic harassment. I believe from then on he was the object of demon activity. Fifthly, Adam became a slave instead of a king. He could have been a king if he had remained dependent. He chose independence and became a slave. Isn’t that so true of so many people that we meet today? Especially I think people in their teens. The attitude is I don’t want to have to obey anybody. Nobody is going to tell me what to do. I’ll be independent. And what do you become? A slave. That’s right. Some of you awakened to that fact and repented. I’m sure you’re glad you did. The sixth fact, Adam’s realm became subject to vanity. That’s the King James Version. Other versions say futility. This is again another example of the frightening effects of the misuse of authority. Exactly as when Lucifier rebelled, a third of the angels fell with him and were involved in his guilt. In exactly the same principle, when Adam fell, the entire earth felt the consequences of his disobedience. Thorns and thistles appeared where they had never been before. And everything that is hard and unpleasant and causes strain and demands labor and produces frustration came into this earth through the disobedience of its head, Adam. Seventhly, Adam became identified with Satan in the guilt of rebellion. He became a rebel like Satan. This is a vital fact because it took the wisdom of God to find the solution.
We know from the book of Job that after this Satan still had access to the presence of God. Maybe we could look in Job 1 for a moment. You know, if I’d been writing a Bible I’d have never written one like this. There’s a lot of things in this Bible would have never occurred to me. I could never have believed that Satan would ever have access to the presence of God again. But the Bible very clearly indicates that he does. Verse 6:
“One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, [the King James says the sons of God but there’s no doubt it means the angels.] and Satan also came with them.”
Isn’t that remarkable! Furthermore, to me, the implication of the text is the only person who could pick Satan out was the Lord. Because Paul says he’s transformed as an angel of light. The fellow angels apparently didn’t know he was amongst them.
The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
Remember, that’s how he started, wandering to and fro. And so on, we don’t need to go into the rest of it. You say, well how could God continue to tolerate Satan? I’m sure there are many reasons I don’t know. When I was in Africa teaching African young people, that was the number one question that they always asked. And I of course tried to give them some answers but it was a real thorny problem for them. Why did God create the devil? I said he didn’t create the devil, he created Lucifer. And Lucifer turned himself into Satan. Well why doesn’t God deal with the devil? I’ll offer you one reason. God’s mercy toward the human race. You see, Satan in his cunning had got man, the human race, involved in the same guilt that he was in. And so, I can picture Satan saying something like this. This is just my version of the possible way it happened. “All right, God, I’m a rebel. I know it, you know it. There’s no arguing about that. And that lake of burning fire over there, that’s where I’m headed. I know it and you know it. You can send me there anytime. But listen, God, you’re a just God. You cannot compromise your justice. You see these human beings? They’re rebels like me. The day you send me there, you’ve got to send them there.” So that was the problem that Satan posed God. He didn’t know God had an answer. God had an answer before Satan posed the problem.
Now, to redeem that fallen race, God stooped still lower. I want you to see the principle that I’m unfolding is every time the lower you go, the higher you get. But every time you go higher, you end up lower. In the person of Jesus Christ, God identified himself with the fallen race and expiated its guilt. And once its guilt was expiated, he did not need to compromise his justice to consign Satan to the place he belonged and offer man a way out. The scripture says in Romans that he might be just and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus. That was the problem. How could he forgive without compromising his justice? How could he spare man and still consign Satan to his well deserved end? The answer is through Jesus. Look quickly at just a few scriptures. Hebrews 2:14–15. This is speaking about Jesus and the incarnation.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (NIV)
The point I want to bring out is that Jesus not merely created Adam, but in redemption he identified himself in his own person with that fallen race. And doing so, he became the expiation for our sins. 1 Peter 2:24, a beautiful verse.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”
And the same epistle, chapter 3, verse 18:
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (NIV)
That, in essence, is the meaning of the cross. The sinless son of God became identified with the fallen sinful race. As our representative he took our guilt upon him, paid our full penalty, was raised again from the dead and made it possible for God without compromising his justice to forgive us and to judge Satan.
Now, the plan of redemption goes one amazing step further. Not merely did Jesus identify himself with us, but through our faith we become identified with him. And the lowest are raised to the highest. Bear in mind that’s the principle I’m illustrating all the way. If you want to go up, go down. And the amazing thing is not merely that God took a creature formed of dust, but God took that creature; depraved, corrupted and fallen and offered him the highest place in the universe. Look in Ephesians 2:4–6 for a moment.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
Now you see there, that’s our identification with Jesus. Everything that Jesus went through, we’re invited to join him in. First of all, we have to identify ourselves with him in his death. We reckon ourselves dead. We’re identified with him in burial by what? By baptism. And having been identified with him in death and burial, we are identified with him in three further phases. We’re made alive with him, we’re resurrected with him—and never stop there. We’re enthroned with him. So God absolutely, specifically and literally took the lowest and in Christ, raised it to the highest: to seat us with him on the throne of the universe.
And furthermore, just one step further. Not merely did God do that or is he doing it [because it’s not really yet complete]. But God is going to make these fallen creatures redeemed, the demonstration of this principle to the universe for all eternity. See, my purpose in saying this tonight is to show you that this law is so important that God has made a way that the whole universe will forever be reminded of it. In other words, God says remember don’t you ever exalt yourself. You know what happens. But, if you humble yourself, I’ll exalt you. I’ll tell you frankly, brothers and sisters, if we would bear this in mind we would save ourselves a lot of unnecessary problems. I believe the root cause behind all of them is pride. And God does a lot in our lives to deliver us from pride. But sometimes we don’t recognize the hand of the Almighty because God puts us in a situation where the only way out is to humble us. And sometimes we take a long time to realize that.
Let’s look at the principle that God will use these fallen but redeemed creatures to demonstrate this law to the universe forever. We go to three passages in Ephesians. In some ways Ephesians is a unique epistle. I think in a way it reveals the eternal purposes of God, both past and future, with a clarity and completeness that no other passage in the Bible does. It’s interesting about this epistle, most of Paul’s epistles were written by him in conjunction with others. But this epistle was written by Paul alone. And, in a certain sense, it contains the unique revelation which God granted to Paul. Notice the opening verse:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”
In other words, he has sole responsibility for this letter. Well, I’ll read the opening half of that chapter. I really appreciate this translation because it takes the liberty of breaking up Paul’s very lengthy sentences and making several sentences out of one long sentence which makes it that much easier for the average English reader to apprehend. Beginning in verse 2:
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [Another emphasis of Ephesians is the fatherhood of God in relationship to Jesus.] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Bear in mind this epistle was written in prison, too. That’s another example of the same truth. When you go to the lowest, God reveals to you the highest.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will...”
Another emphasis is God does everything the way he wants.
“To the praise of his glorious grace, [that’s another emphasis that it’s all to the praise of the grace of God.] which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
God’s grace is free, it’s bounteous, but it’s always with wisdom and understanding.
“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment [what is his good pleasure?]—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
Now, here’s where we come in. Think of that glorious plan that’s unfolded from eternity to eternity. And then it says:
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will...”
That’s a good truth if you can lay hold of that. God does things the way he intends to do them. You know, I’ve discovered in my life I get very excited and concerned about some things and they don’t work out. But the things that God considered important get worked out. And really, we need to worry less because he’ll get them worked one way or the other. I’m going to read that again. “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Now, why were we chosen? Verse 12:
“In order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”
So we’re the number one exhibit of this principle that if you exalt yourself you’ll be humbled. But if you humble yourself you’ll be exalted.
And then in chapter 2, verse 7, which follows on from the verses I’ve already quoted. I’ll go back to verse 6:
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
We’re the number one demonstration piece of God’s grace.
And then one other scripture, Ephesians 3:10.
“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms...”
Isn’t that remarkable! We’re to be the supreme demonstration of God’s wisdom to the whole universe for all eternity. God took us from the scrap heap and made us his masterpiece. Praise God. Amen.